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Title: Expedition 374 Preliminary Report: Ross Sea West Antarctic Ice Sheet History
The marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is currently retreating due to shifting wind-driven oceanic currents that transport warm waters toward the ice margin, resulting in ice shelf thinning and accelerated mass loss of the WAIS. Previous results from geologic drilling on Antarctica’s continental margins show significant variability in marine-based ice sheet extent during the late Neogene and Quaternary. Numerical models indicate a fundamental role for oceanic heat in controlling this variability over at least the past 20 My. Although evidence for past ice sheet variability has been collected in marginal settings, sedimentologic sequences from the outer continental shelf are required to evaluate the extent of past ice sheet variability and the associated oceanic forcings and feedbacks. International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 drilled a latitudinal and depth transect of five drill sites from the outer continental shelf to rise in the eastern Ross Sea to resolve the relationship between climatic and oceanic change and WAIS evolution through the Neogene and Quaternary. This location was selected because numerical ice sheet models indicate that this sector of Antarctica is highly sensitive to changes in ocean heat flux. The expedition was designed for optimal data-model integration and will enable an improved understanding more » of the sensitivity of Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) mass balance during warmer-than-present climates (e.g., the Pleistocene “super interglacials,” the mid-Pliocene, and the late early to middle Miocene). The principal goals of Expedition 374 were to • Evaluate the contribution of West Antarctica to far-field ice volume and sea level estimates; • Reconstruct ice-proximal atmospheric and oceanic temperatures to identify past polar amplification and assess its forcings and feedbacks; • Assess the role of oceanic forcing (e.g., sea level and temperature) on AIS stability/instability; • Identify the sensitivity of the AIS to Earth’s orbital configuration under a variety of climate boundary conditions; and • Reconstruct eastern Ross Sea paleobathymetry to examine relationships between seafloor geometry, ice sheet stability/instability, and global climate. To achieve these objectives, we will • Use data and models to reconcile intervals of maximum Neogene and Quaternary Antarctic ice advance with far-field records of eustatic sea level change; • Reconstruct past changes in oceanic and atmospheric temperatures using a multiproxy approach; • Reconstruct Neogene and Quaternary sea ice margin fluctuations in datable marine continental slope and rise records and correlate these records to existing inner continental shelf records; • Examine relationships among WAIS stability/instability, Earth’s orbital configuration, oceanic temperature and circulation, and atmospheric pCO2; and • Constrain the timing of Ross Sea continental shelf overdeepening and assess its impact on Neogene and Quaternary ice dynamics. Expedition 374 was carried out from January to March 2018, departing from Lyttelton, New Zealand. We recovered 1292.70 m of high-quality cores from five sites spanning the early Miocene to late Quaternary. Three sites were cored on the continental shelf (Sites U1521, U1522, and U1523). At Site U1521, we cored a 650 m thick sequence of interbedded diamictite, mudstone, and diatomite, penetrating the Ross Sea seismic Unconformity RSU4. The depositional reconstructions of past glacial and open-marine conditions at this site will provide unprecedented insight into environmental change on the Antarctic continental shelf during the early and middle Miocene. At Site U1522, we cored a discontinuous upper Miocene to Pleistocene sequence of glacial and glaciomarine strata from the outer shelf, with the primary objective to penetrate and date seismic Unconformity RSU3, which is interpreted to represent the first major continental shelf–wide expansion and coalescing of marine-based ice streams from both East and West Antarctica. At Site U1523, we cored a sediment drift located beneath the westerly flowing Antarctic Slope Current (ASC). Cores from this site will provide a record of the changing vigor of the ASC through time. Such a reconstruction will enable testing of the hypothesis that changes in the vigor of the ASC represent a key control on regulating heat flux onto the continental shelf, resulting in the ASC playing a fundamental role in ice sheet mass balance. We also cored two sites on the continental slope and rise. At Site U1524, we cored a Plio–Pleistocene sedimentary sequence on the continental rise on the levee of the Hillary Canyon, which is one of the largest conduits of Antarctic Bottom Water delivery from the Antarctic continental shelf into the abyssal ocean. Drilling at Site U1524 was intended to penetrate into middle Miocene and older strata but was initially interrupted by drifting sea ice that forced us to abandon coring in Hole U1524A at 399.5 m drilling depth below seafloor (DSF). We moved to a nearby alternate site on the continental slope (U1525) to core a single hole with a record complementary to the upper part of the section recovered at Site U1524. We returned to Site U1524 3 days later, after the sea ice cleared. We then cored Hole U1524C with the rotary core barrel with the intention of reaching the target depth of 1000 m DSF. However, we were forced to terminate Hole U1524C at 441.9 m DSF due to a mechanical failure with the vessel that resulted in termination of all drilling operations and a return to Lyttelton 16 days earlier than scheduled. The loss of 39% of our operational days significantly impacted our ability to achieve all Expedition 374 objectives as originally planned. In particular, we were not able to obtain the deeper time record of the middle Miocene on the continental rise or abyssal sequences that would have provided a continuous and contemporaneous archive to the high-quality (but discontinuous) record from Site U1521 on the continental shelf. The mechanical failure also meant we could not recover sediment cores from proposed Site RSCR-19A, which was targeted to obtain a high-fidelity, continuous record of upper Neogene and Quaternary pelagic/hemipelagic sedimentation. Despite our failure to recover a shelf-to-rise transect for the Miocene, a continental shelf-to-rise transect for the Pliocene to Pleistocene interval is possible through comparison of the high-quality records from Site U1522 with those from Site U1525 and legacy cores from the Antarctic Geological Drilling Project (ANDRILL). « less
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1326927
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10281955
Journal Name:
Preliminary report
Volume:
374
ISSN:
2372-9562
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Site U1524 was designed to penetrate into middle Miocene and older strata, but coring was initially interrupted by drifting sea ice that forced us to abandon coring in Hole U1524A at 399.5 m drilling depth below seafloor (DSF). We moved to a nearby alternate site on the continental slope (Site U1525) to core a single hole designed to complement the record at Site U1524. We returned to Site U1524 after the sea ice cleared and cored Hole U1524C with the rotary core barrel system with the intention of reaching the target depth of 1000 m DSF. However, we were forced to terminate Hole U1524C at 441.9 m DSF because of a mechanical failure with the vessel that resulted in termination of all drilling operations and forced us to return to Lyttelton 16 days earlier than scheduled. The loss of 39% of our operational days significantly impacted our ability to achieve all Expedition 374 objectives. 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The drill sites on the continental rise were in the path of numerous icebergs of various sizes that frequently forced us to pause drilling or leave the hole entirely as they approached the ship. The overall downtime caused by approaching icebergs was 50% of our time spent on site. 3. A medical evacuation cut the expedition short by 1 week. Recovery of core on the continental rise at Sites U1532 and U1533 cannot be used to indicate the extent of grounded ice on the shelf or, thus, of its retreat directly. However, the sediments contained in these cores offer a range of clues about past WAIS extent and retreat. At Sites U1532 and U1533, coarse-grained sediments interpreted to be ice-rafted debris (IRD) were identified throughout all recovered time periods. 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If detailed provenance studies confirm our preliminary assessment that the origin of these samples is from the plutonic bedrock of Marie Byrd Land, their thermochronological record will potentially reveal timing and rates of denudation and erosion linked to crustal uplift. The chronostratigraphy of both sites enables the generation of a seismic sequence stratigraphy for the entire Amundsen Sea continental rise, spanning the area offshore from the Amundsen Sea Embayment westward along the Marie Byrd Land margin to the easternmost Ross Sea through a connecting network of seismic lines.« less
  4. The Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica has long been considered the most vulnerable part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) because of the great water depth at the grounding line and the absence of substantial ice shelves. Glaciers in this configuration are thought to be susceptible to rapid or runaway retreat. Ice flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment is undergoing the most rapid changes of any sector of the Antarctic Ice Sheet outside the Antarctic Peninsula, including changes caused by substantial grounding-line retreat over recent decades, as observed from satellite data. Recent models suggest that a threshold leading tomore »the collapse of WAIS in this sector may have been already crossed and that much of the ice sheet could be lost even under relatively moderate greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Drill cores from the Amundsen Sea provide tests of several key questions about controls on ice sheet stability. The cores offer a direct record of glacial history offshore from a drainage basin that receives ice exclusively from the WAIS, which allows clear comparisons between the WAIS history and low-latitude climate records. Today, warm Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) is impinging onto the Amundsen Sea shelf and causing melting of the underside of the WAIS in most places. Reconstructions of past CDW intrusions can assess the ties between warm water upwelling and large-scale changes in past grounding-line positions. Carrying out these reconstructions offshore from the drainage basin that currently has the most substantial negative mass balance of ice anywhere in Antarctica is thus of prime interest to future predictions. The scientific objectives for this expedition are built on hypotheses about WAIS dynamics and related paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions. The main objectives are 1. To test the hypothesis that WAIS collapses occurred during the Neogene and Quaternary and, if so, when and under which environmental conditions; 2. To obtain ice-proximal records of ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea that correlate with global records of ice-volume changes and proxy records for atmospheric and ocean temperatures; 3. To study the stability of a marine-based WAIS margin and how warm deep-water incursions control its position on the shelf; 4. To find evidence for earliest major grounded WAIS advances onto the middle and outer shelf; 5. To test the hypothesis that the first major WAIS growth was related to the uplift of the Marie Byrd Land dome. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 completed two very successful drill sites on the continental rise of the Amundsen Sea. Site U1532 is located on a large sediment drift, now called Resolution Drift, and penetrated to 794 m with 90% recovery. We collected almost-continuous cores from the Pleistocene through the Pliocene and into the late Miocene. At Site U1533, we drilled 383 m (70% recovery) into the more condensed sequence at the lower flank of the same sediment drift. The cores of both sites contain unique records that will enable study of the cyclicity of ice sheet advance and retreat processes as well as bottom-water circulation and water mass changes. In particular, Site U1532 revealed a sequence of Pliocene sediments with an excellent paleomagnetic record for high-resolution climate change studies of the previously sparsely sampled Pacific sector of the West Antarctic margin. Despite the drilling success at these sites, the overall expedition experienced three unexpected difficulties that affected many of the scientific objectives: 1. The extensive sea ice on the continental shelf prevented us from drilling any of the proposed shelf sites. 2. The drill sites on the continental rise were in the path of numerous icebergs of various sizes that frequently forced us to pause drilling or leave the hole entirely as they approached the ship. The overall downtime caused by approaching icebergs was 50% of our time spent on site. 3. An unfortunate injury to a member of the ship's crew cut the expedition short by one week. Recovery of core on the continental rise at Sites U1532 and U1533 cannot be used to precisely indicate the position of ice or retreat of the ice sheet on the shelf. However, these sediments contained in the cores offer a range of clues about past WAIS extent and retreat. At Sites U1532 and U1533, coarse-grained sediments interpreted to be ice-rafted debris (IRD) were identified throughout all recovered time periods. A dominant feature of the cores is recorded by lithofacies cyclicity, which is interpreted to represent relatively warmer periods variably characterized by higher microfossil abundance, greater bioturbation, and higher counts of IRD alternating with colder periods characterized by dominantly gray laminated terrigenous muds. Initial comparison of these cycles to published records from the region suggests that the units interpreted as records of warmer time intervals in the core tie to interglacial periods and the units interpreted as deposits of colder periods tie to glacial periods. The cores from the two drill sites recovered sediments of purely terrigenous origin intercalated or mixed with pelagic or hemipelagic deposits. In particular, Site U1533, which is located near a deep-sea channel originating from the continental slope, contains graded sands and gravel transported downslope from the shelf to the abyssal plain. The channel is likely the path of such sediments transported downslope by turbidity currents or other sediment-gravity flows. The association of lithologic facies at both sites predominantly reflects the interplay of downslope and contouritic sediment supply with occasional input of more pelagic sediment. Despite the lack of cores from the shelf, our records from the continental rise reveal the timing of glacial advances across the shelf and thus the existence of a continent-wide ice sheet in West Antarctica at least during longer time periods since the late Miocene. Cores from both sites contain abundant coarse-grained sediments and clasts of plutonic origin transported either by downslope processes or by ice rafting. If detailed provenance studies confirm our preliminary assessment that the origin of these samples is from the plutonic bedrock of Marie Byrd Land, their thermochronological record will potentially reveal timing and rates of denudation and erosion linked to crustal uplift. The chronostratigraphy of both sites enables the generation of a seismic sequence stratigraphy not only for the Amundsen Sea rise but also for the western Amundsen Sea along the Marie Byrd Land margin through a connecting network of seismic lines.« less
  5. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is largely marine based and thus highly sensitive to both climatic and oceanographic changes. Therefore, the WAIS has likely had a very dynamic history over the last several million years. A complete collapse of the WAIS would result in a global sea level rise of 3.3–4.3 m, yet the world’s scientific community is not able to predict its future behavior. Moreover, knowledge about past behavior of the WAIS is poor, in particular during geological times with climatic conditions similar to those expected for the near and distant future. Reconstructions and quantifications of partial ormore »complete WAIS collapses in the past are urgently needed for constraining and testing ice sheet models that aim to predict future WAIS behavior and the potential contribution of the WAIS to global sea level rise. Large uncertainties exist regarding the chronology, extent, rates, and spatial and temporal variability of past advances and retreats of the WAIS across the continental shelves. These uncertainties largely result from the fundamental lack of data from drill cores recovered proximal to the WAIS. The continental shelf and rise of the Amundsen Sea are prime targets for drilling because the records are expected to yield archives of pure WAIS dynamics unaffected by other ice sheets and the WAIS sector draining into the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) currently experiences the largest ice loss in Antarctica (Paolo et al., 2015). We propose a series of drill sites for the ASE shelf where seismic data reveal seaward-dipping sedimentary sequences that span from the preglacial depositional phase to the most recent glacial periods. Our strategy is to drill a transect from the oldest sequences close to the bedrock/basin boundary at the middle–inner shelf transition to the youngest sequences on the outer shelf in the eastern ASE. If the eastern ASE is inaccessible due to sea ice cover, a similar transect of sites can be drilled on the western ASE. The core transect will provide a detailed history of the glacial cycles in the Amundsen Sea region and allow comparison to the glacial history from the Ross Sea sector. In addition, deep-water sites on the continental rise of the Amundsen Sea are selected for recovering continuous records of glacially transported sediments and detailed archives of climatic and oceanographic changes throughout glacial–interglacial cycles. We will apply a broad suite of analytical techniques, including multiproxy analyses, to address our objectives of reconstructing the onset of glaciation in the greenhouse to icehouse transition, processes of dynamic ice sheet behavior during the Neogene and Quaternary, and ocean conditions associated with the glacial cycles. The five principal objectives of Expedition 379 are as follows: 1. To reconstruct the glacial history of West Antarctica from the Paleogene to recent times and the dynamic behavior of the WAIS during the Neogene and Quaternary, especially possible partial or full WAIS collapses, and the WAIS contribution to past sea level changes. Emphasis is placed in particular on studying the response of the WAIS at times when the pCO2 in Earth’s atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm and atmospheric and oceanic temperatures were higher than at present. 2. To correlate the WAIS-proximal records of ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea with global records of ice volume changes and proxy records for air and seawater temperatures. 3. To study the relationship between incursions of warm Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto the continental shelf of the Amundsen Sea Embayment and the stability of marine-based ice sheet margins under warm water conditions. 4. To reconstruct the processes of major WAIS advances onto the middle and outer shelf that are likely to have occurred since the middle Miocene and compare their timing and processes to those of other Antarctic continental shelves. 5. To identify the timing of the first ice sheet expansion onto the continental shelf of the ASE and its possible relationship to the uplift of Marie Byrd Land.« less